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Fangak Shocks Verification Mission: Jonglei State, South Sudan, June 2021

South Sudan
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Key Findings

• Fangak county has been affected by two years of consecutive flooding, with observed flood extent and severity much higher than in previous years. This has driven large-scale displacement. Unusually, flooding in January 2021 occurred outside of the rainy season, indicating that rainfall is not the only trigger for flooding in the county. Widespread livelihood collapse was reported, compounded by inability of households to depend on traditional coping strategies and income-generating activities. Flooding has prevented people from cultivating land since 2020, and has resulted in populations converging on highlands or moving further towards Sudan.

• In previous periods of the most severe flooding (1962-1970) in the county, it was reported that the local population was largely still able to cultivate since the flooding would only intensify after the harvest (September-October). Populations could reportedly still rely on traditional coping strategies such as selling cattle, or would have access to milk, meat and blood. However, since the end of the 2013-2017 crisis, cattle stocks have drastically reduced, with only a few households now owning cattle. Focus group discussion (FGD) participants report that access to cattle is also atypically low and unlikely to improve until the next rainy season (May – November) as most of the cattle migrated far away from flooded areas. As a result, FGD participants reported there is less opportunity for people to rely on cattle as a coping strategy.

• Reliance on wild foods, such as water lilies and lalup, is reportedly common during the dry season. However, availability and access has reportedly reduced during this period in recent years due to flooding. Fishing remains a common source of livelihood for the poorer households, although access to fishing nets remains low according to FGD participants.

• Compounding shocks such as flooding in 2020-2021 and insecurity incidents in 2021 have reportedly limited the ability of local populations to move around. This has reduced opportunities for people to collect wild food, impacted seasonal migration of both cattle and people, as well as complicated trade and transportation of goods and reduced functionality and supply of markets.

• Dykes reportedly remain the most preferred mitigation strategy against flooding used by both households and humanitarian actors.
However, condition of dykes remain poor throughout Fangak, and the technical capacity to build or repair them remains limited. Whilst construction of dykes can be an effective method to prevent water from flowing into inhabited areas, excess rainfall or river overflow in the rainy season has reportedly also led to dykes being filled up with water. As a consequence, households reportedly have had to pump out water using diesel engines (a costly exercise that is beyond the average financial means of local households).

• Assessed households indicated that as cultivation is becoming much more difficult, alternative livelihood measures that are more suited to flooded environments (i.e fishing) need to be supported by humanitarian actors.